Google's Schmidt meets the Tories

CEO pops into a Conservative party conference to insist the Internet can help combat repressive societies.

Graeme Wearden Special to CNET News.com
2 min read
Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt brought some Internet glamour to the Conservative party on Tuesday when he gave a keynote address at the party's annual conference in Bournemouth, England.

Schmidt told the audience of party activists and members of Parliament that they had a duty to help create an environment where everyone can freely access data on the Internet. He also acknowledged that the rapid growth of the Web meant that some politicians had concerns.

"The Internet is democratizing knowledge," Schmidt said. "But it's also like a child, testing its powers for the first time. Governments are struggling to work out what to do about it, and they have concerns, such as over privacy."

Restrictions may be tempting, but they aren't likely to quell the tidal wave of online information, he said.

"My advice is, don't bet against it. Again and again, people forget that the Internet is pervasive and they try and hold back information when the Internet makes everything available," Schmidt warned.

Schmidt told the audience that Google even proved to be a life-saver to one person. "He typed his symptoms into Google, and got a message back that said, 'You are having a heart attack. Call the emergency services now.' That's why we tell our employees that it's important that Google is fast. Otherwise people die."

Google's CEO also insisted that "the Internet can, and I hope will, be a revolutionary force in repressive societies." Earlier this year, Google was widely attacked for censoring the search results it supplies to its Chinese users, but it has also refused to hand over data on searches to the U.S. authorities.

But Schmidt won his biggest reaction from the audience when he made a joke about blogging. "Most blogs have precisely one reader--the blogger themselves."

Graeme Wearden reported for ZDNet UK from London.